MSI Z97I Gaming AC Overview
If you have never seen a Mini-ITX board in person they are extremely small! Sticking the Mini-ITX form factor the Z97I Gaming AC is only 6.7 in x 6.7 in. Keeping with MSI’s Gaming theme the PCB of the board is black with red and black accents.
Starting at the center of the board we can see the Intel LGA 1150 socket, which actually takes up a good part of the board. This board will support Intel’s 4th Generation Haswell processors as well as the recently released Haswell Refresh processors. The Z97I Gaming AC makes us of a 4+2 all digital power phase design. You can see that MSI is using higher quality super ferrite core chokes. There is also a large heatsink covering the power delivery components. It is connected to the PCH heatsink by a heatpipe.
Power to the CPU comes by way of an 8pin EPS connector. Moving up you have a USB 2.0 header, Audio Boost 2 chip and your front panel audio headers. As far as storage goes you have four SATA 6GB/s ports which are at the top of the board next to the 24pin ATX power connector and USB 3.0 header. Right next to the PCH heatsink is a 4pin CPU fan connector.
Like all Mini-ITX motherboard you have two DDR3 slots, which can support DDR3 memory up to 3300 MHz (O.C.). There is a single expansion slot on the board, which is a PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot. Behind that is the only other 4pin fan header on the board.
Looking at the rear I/O you have your audio ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA ports, a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, two HDMI ports, optical audio, DisplayPort, KillerNIC Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports and your connections for the WiFi antennas. The wireless module is easily installed by the way. At the end of the board there is a small clear CMOS button. It is great to see that on such a small board. You might have noticed that two of the USB ports on the back and the PS/2 port are red. MSI calls these their Gaming Device Ports and they feature 3x as much gold as regular connectors. Also the audio ports are gold-plated.